For a while now, I’ve been reading a book called, 31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way. Each day, after reading scripture and a short, reflective essay, the reader is assigned a “Martha” task and a “Mary” task—hearkening back to the Bible story about two sisters, Martha and Mary, who hosted Jesus as he was passing through their village. Martha distractedly hurried about, seeing to the preparations, making sure every detail was in order. Mary just sat dreamily at Jesus’ feet, soaking in his presence; listening intently to his words.
Martha, distraught and resentful that she had too much work to do all by herself, asked Jesus to compel Mary to get up and help her. Jesus told Martha, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
So back to 31 Days to Clean. I was fine on the days when I was given tasks like cleaning out the refrigerator or flipping the mattresses. The author lost me a little bit when she suggested that I wash the bedroom walls. And I still haven’t steam-cleaned the rugs, but I’ll get around to that later. But as I admired my sparkling clean oven one day, after the application of quite a bit of elbow grease, the idea of transformation naturally came to mind.
I can’t count the number of times that I have pleaded with God, “Transform me. Make me new.”—in the hope of becoming a better person in one way or another.
The oven wasn’t new. Neither was the refrigerator. But they were washed clean. They were transformed. Standing there in my kitchen, it occurred to me that transformation isn’t always about becoming something altogether new. It is about moving into the best version of yourself. Growing into God’s dream of who you can be—who he created you to be. Never necessarily arriving. But always becoming.
I read this quote the other day by 19th century English theological writer Julius Hare: “Be what you are. This is the first step toward becoming better than you are.”
Admittedly, I may not make it through every single one of the 31 ‘days to clean’. But reading this book, and cleaning my home, has led me to understand a bit more clearly that my time here on this planet is not about straining toward magazine-cover-pretend-perfection in any realm. It’s not about changing who I truly am. It’s about becoming who I truly am. And it’s not about ignoring my daily duties, either—but about seeking God’s kingdom first, and consistently choosing what is better.
Haven’t we wasted enough time consumed with worry about many things? Only one thing is needed. What a relief! We can sit at the feet of the Father who loves us, and soak him in. We can allow him to make of us what he will. Maybe that’s why we’re really here. To be transformed. Washed clean. Filled with the very breath and Spirit of God, like so many scattered dry bones brought to life.
Each one of us was woven and spun by a God whose miraculous beauty of design is apparent every time we step outside and look around. Shouldn’t we finally trust that he knew what he was doing when he made us? The poet e. e. cummings once said, “It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are.”
Maybe we’re here simply to find courage, be who we are, and in the process, become better.
(Note: This is an article I wrote The Call, the newsletter of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Seguin. Thirty One Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way is written by Sarah Mae, and available on Kindle.)